On Friday, April 2, 2004, key California lawmakers, including the state’s governor and four legislative leaders, came to an agreement on an outline for a plan intended to overhaul the state’s ailing worker’s compensation system.
Before any reforms can be made, however, the outline must be turned into a legislative bill, which insiders are estimating could take up to 1,000 pages to complete. Plus, even with the complexity of the proposed bill, critics are still pointing to notable omissions and doubting that the reforms will result in the large premium reductions that the state’s employers were hoping for.
According to the Los Angeles Times, while the plan’s outline won’t be released until the bill is crafted, expected later this week, some of the main components of the reform will include the following:
- The extent of a worker’s permanent disability would be based on objective guidelines used in other states’ worker’s compensation programs and based on the American Medical Association’s guidelines. Seriousness of a permanent disability would be assigned a numerical rating which would then be used to calculate the payout for the disability.
- Injured workers would be required to visit the employer’s choice of doctor three times before being permitted to see the worker’s personal physician, if desired. However, requests for treatment from a personal doctor would also require approval by an independent panel.
- Caps on premium rates and controls on rate hikes would only occur if an insufficient number of private insurers were willing to sell policies in the state.
- Return-to-work programs would be promoted by encouraging employers to offer alternative work for injured workers who couldn’t perform their former jobs while recovering.
- Programs could be developed by employers and unions to combine health care insurance and worker’s compensation programs thus potentially saving money for the employer and permitting more flexibility for workers in choosing their health care providers.
Once the outline is turned into a legislative bill, the proposed reforms will need to be approved by the state’s legislature before they can take effect. In the event that the bill doesn’t pass, the governor’s office is still attempting to get a sufficient number of signatures on a petition that would place a worker’s compensation reform plan on the November 2004 ballot.
Source: LA Times